Page 1, 7th July 1961

7th July 1961
Page 1
Page 1, 7th July 1961 — WHAT WE THINK

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WHILE rank-and-tile electricians were shrugging off their responsibility with a muttered: "What do you expect ME to do?", a stocky little Glaswegian continued doggedly on his quietly efficient way to become a symbol of the best trade union tradition.

We are, of course, proud that Johnny Byrne's Catholicism has made him what he is. But the one thing his opponents have never been able to say of him is that he shows fear or favour to any sectional interest. If the term Catholic Action is to he used as a smear, it has never been any good in that sense to John Byrne's enemies.

Contemptuous of publicity, be has won the respect of his fellow trade unionists by his service of them, and by his example of high principle enshrined in a warm, human personality.

The battle against the Communists in the E.T.U. is by no means over. As John Byrne says himself, the only way to win it is for every non-Communist in the union to help him. After his example, there are no excuses left.

The lesson of the E.T.U. case is that the T.U.C. can no longer avoid the urgent need for it to acquire certain powers, as opposed to consultative and advisory functions. And many responsible trade unionists are coming to see it.

It may not be necessary to go a.s far as Sweden, where the equivalent of the T.U.C. has to approve strike action before constituent unions undertake it. But even legal power to supervise elections would not be an undue interference with a union's right to autonomy.

It would simply aim to avoid a fraud which would otherwise have to be dealt with in retrospect by the long and expensive process of the High Court or the criminal courts.

If business firms can be made subject to the supervision of the Restrictive Practices Court, there seems little reason why the trade unions should not accept a minimum degree of "auditing" by the family organisation to which they all belong.—H.K.

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